There was a famous, clueless interchange between French Queen Marie Antoinette and a courtier that ultimately cost her her head. And, it remains the touchstone for the savage cluelessness of the well-to-do laughing at the plight of the poor.
As usual, it is NOT true, although invariably the skeptics seem not to notice that it IS true in a very real psychological sense. It was the misattribution in another time, of “I can see Russia from my house,” to Sarah Palin. No: she didn’t say it, but it resonated deeply enough in the collective consciousness that it became a “truth.” If it wasn’t true, it OUGHT to have been. But there is truth and there is truth. From the magnificent Cecil Adams, at “The Straight Dope”:
While Marie Antoinette was certainly enough of a bubblehead to have said the phrase in question, there is no evidence that she actually did so, and in any case she did not originate it. The peasants-have-no-bread story was in common currency at least since the 1760s as an illustration of the decadence of the aristocracy. The political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions it in his Confessions in connection with an incident that occurred in 1740. (He stole wine while working as a tutor in Lyons and then had problems trying to scrounge up something to eat along with it.) He concludes thusly: “Finally I remembered the way out suggested by a great princess when told that the peasants had no bread: ‘Well, let them eat cake.'”
Then again, there are many theories as to what was said, who said it, etc. as is usual among the skeptical class. A particularly popular variant is that the term “cake” is mistranslated, etc. etc. etc. T’would seem to me that some rewriting of history and historical crusading on the part of partisans to whom the anecdote MUST be true and those to whom the anecdote MUST NOT be true is entirely within the realm of probability. Remember we’ve seen that in our time. History is a battle of narratives, as we saw in the recent Civil War debate (“The War Between The States was about States’ Rights, not about Slavery”).
The truth is that there are many who are so insensitive to the plight of their fellow human beings that they might easily utter the phrase “Well, let them eat cake,” or else creatively interpret the facts to their own ends.
Source: Author’s analysis of Arthur B. Kennickell, “Ponds and Streams:
Wealth and Income in the U.S., 1989 to 2007,” Federal Reserve Board
Working Paper, January 7, 2009, Figure A3a, p. 63. Does not include assets
held in money market mutual funds or tax-deferred retirement accounts.
Such was the case at yesterday’s Tea Party/Tax Day protests, which entirely escaped my attention because I had not realized that there were so many so stoooooopid and selfish. Color me wrong [emphasis added]:
By Elizabeth Factor and Mallory Factor – FOXNews.com
Progressive Democrats are using “tax reform” to create a group of Americans who pay no federal income tax at all.
A series of tax reforms, generous exemptions and tax credits, including last year’s economic stimulus bill, have dropped millions of Americans from the federal tax rolls. Huge numbers of Americans are simply no longer affected by the federal income tax. The Tax Policy Center projects that 47 percent of all U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2009. And, the bottom 40 percent of income earners actually receive a cash payment from the government at tax time. This cash payment is styled as a “refund” but it is actually a net cash transfer from the government–not a refund of taxes actually withheld on income. And for many Americans, this cash transfer from Uncle Sam actually exceeds all federal, state and local taxes that they pay in any form during the year including sales taxes and social security taxes.
Of course, we are accustomed to the idea that high income earners pay more in taxes both in absolute terms and as a percentage of their incomes. But taxing only the top half of a society is not normal progressive taxation. Instead, the recent changes to our tax system are an example of politicians using the tax code for their own political ends. In this case, the so-called progressive Democratic politicians are using “tax reform” to grow their political base by creating a group of Americans that pay no federal income tax….
Yeah. Damned f**king clever of those Democratic politicians creating an underclass of 50% of the population who share 2.5% of the wealth of our nation.
Let them eat cake — whilst we sip our tea, of course.
And, of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, which is why this is only 821 words long.